The Wheel of Time is Problematic


#1

SPOILERS ALL BOOKS

Every time Narg reads that on social media he feels like

Having said that they may have a point…

Here are some extracts from a essay titled: A Wheel of time? More like A Wheel of Misogny

Channeling is where the theme of gender essentialism is most explicit; no man can hope to channel saidar, save in situations where he is assisted by a female channeler, and vice versa. The description of channeling is described in great detail; saidin is a “storm” that men must “seize” in order to use; saidar a “river” to be “embraced.” The connotations are not un-sexual: men work magic by being aggressive and dominant, women by being passive and submissive. The walls of gender and sexuality in The Wheel of Time are many spans high; lesbians and bisexual women are extremely rare (and their sexuality is almost always ambiguous, as with Aes Sedai “pillow-friends”), and out of a literal cast of thousands, I counted exactly one (very minor) male character who is explicitly gay.

"being passive and submissive" Phrased that way, it sounds bad. Narg not sure if Jordan ever uses those words though. Surrendering yes, passive and submissive no. Still it will be an easy point for haters to make.

The purpose of this essay is to bemoan the gender stereotypes that Robert Jordan consciously and unapologetically employed. I hope to analyze and compare the treatment, by the narrative, of Jordan’s male and female characters.

A microcosm may be found in the Forsaken, the thirteen most powerful and favored servants of the Dark One. They are more or less evenly divided by gender (eight male, five female). there is a clear difference between the fates of the male and female Forsaken; the men are typically killed instantly, and honorably, struck down in combat by the forces of Light. The Dark One grants them new lives and second chances whenever possible. In contrast, the women are subjected to cruel torture, humiliation, rape, and enslavement, intended to be seen as karmic justice for their evil doings (the fates of Graendal and Semirhage are particularly “ironic”). It is expected that in their fall from power, they will lose control of their own bodies and even their own minds.

This pattern extends throughout the story and its prodigious cast of characters. A plethora of magical instruments exist for the purposes of enslaving female channelers, but not male channelers. One of these, the Oath Rod, can be used to render a female channeler incapable of violating a promise she has sworn upon it. Galina Casban, a cartoonishly evil lesbian Aes Sedai and secret “Darkfriend” is compelled under the pain of torture to swear away her free will on the Oath Rod and serve the Shaido Aiel. The last we see of Galina is her internal monologue in Knife of Dreams, when she despairs of escape and realizes that she will be a slave for the rest of her life.

More common is the a’dam, a literal leash and collar, mentioned above as a tool of the Seanchan Empire, a culture built on absolutism, abasement, and slavery. When the Seanchan invade the continent that is the setting of the narrative, they round up all women capable of channeling and collar them with a’dam. The effects of the device are explained in detail: the holder of the leash “trains” the prisoner by praising her when she obeys orders, and magically administering pain when she does not. The Seanchan treat their slaves like animals, giving them “pet” slave names, and after enough years in servitude, the collared women eventually come to accept their new identity. Many of the powerful, proud Aes Sedai are enslaved in this manner, and tortured until they come to fear freedom and love their masters. Most notable of these is Elaida, the sincere yet incompetent and megalomaniacal usurper of the office of Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai. In The Gathering Storm, she is abducted and collared by Seanchan agents. We see her again in Towers of Midnight, abasing herself before the Seanchan Empress, answering to her slave name, and divulging the Aes Sedai’s secrets eagerly to avoid further torture.

Male antagonists in The Wheel of Time suffer no such indignities. In addition to the Forsaken, General Turan and High Lord Turak of the Seanchan are slain in combat. Couladin, Rand’s rival and leader of the Shaido Aiel, is also killed in battle. Pedron Niall, the cunning commander of the fanatical, Templar-esque Whitecloaks, is assassinated by a subordinate, the even more fanatical Eamon Valda, who usurps power and is later killed in a duel. The scheming King Galldrian of Cairhien is also assassinated. “Slayer”, another enigmatic minion of the Dark One, is killed fighting Perrin Aybara (one of the primary protagonists). They are defeated, but not humiliated; they are killed at the height of their power, not after they have lost it, been cast down, and humbled5. Asmodean, the only real exception to this trend, does not suffer in captivity; Rand often berates him but does not torture him, even allowing him a modest parole and a privileged position in his entourage.

From this perspective, the world of The Wheel of Time must be taken as a tale of misogynistic wish-fulfillment, not as a narrative of fantasy adventure in which women enjoy equality or even superiority to men.

The point about the fates of the female forsaken and their treatment certainly looks bad when you compare it to the males and it does seem like Jordan had a trend going on there. Was it misogynistic wish-fulfillment on his part? No idea, but it does give ammo to people who want to paint it that way.

Narg comes across comments like the above nearly everyday on social media and Narg is sure that as soon as the show is greenlit the haters will start to come out more and the # tagging will start. It doesn’t take much these days for business execs to get nervous and to have knee jerk reactions to social media campaigns.

So Narg puts this question to you: Do you believe the TV show needs to modify aspects of Jordan’s Male/Female dynamic to be more inline with what is considered to be socially acceptable now and if so what changes would you make?


#2

Having 3 woman romantically at the same time who are fine with each other is a hard sell. Mybe have history with 2 of them but marry one instead. Elayne since she’s a queen.


#3

Honestly, I think that they should keep Shaidar Haran’s punishment of the forsaken consistent. Imply that he rapes a female AND a male forsaken. Besides, it is to debase and punish the person not for the sexual need of Shaidar.

If you want to make Rand and his three women socially acceptable by today’s standards then change Min to Mike or something. Then you got a bisexual main character and the LGBTQ community would only strengthen the already rock solid fan base. Of course then you will have those loyal book fans who want Min and not Mike and don’t watch the show.

They should really play up the males are insane and females are level headed. Men are power hungry while women are sensible leaders. In the beginning, have the men in the story look down on the women and disrespect them just to have the women rise and prove just how silly and childish the men are acting. Let the stereotypes play out just to later show how silly they are later when men and women stand side by side to fight Shai’tan together as one.

Ahhh damn now the Dark One has his eye on me. I always forget to not say that name!


#4

You know, Narg doesn’t think Rand and his three girls are a problem by today’s standards…there was a successful long running show on HBO, Big Love that ran for 5 seasons. Though it does feed into the misogyny narrative that gets used against RJ. If they do alter it, Narg thinks having Narg…er Rand fall for all three is still doable but have Aviendha view him like a little brother, while Min an Elayne both try to win him. Then have Elayne die heroically after the Bowl of Winds and leave Min as the sole love interest🤠

As for changing sexuality, if they do that, Narg reckons Perrin is the best option there. Faile therefore is a male and that solves the problem that some have with Perrin spanking her in the books👀. Keep Berelain female though🤠


#5

Good point. I never even thought of Big Love. I hope they don’t change anything and tell the story the way Jordan meant for it to be told.


#6

Well as they say in Randland:

If wishes were wings


#7

I’m sure that many fans would love for the series to have an answer to all of the world problems, but alas, no author or story is perfect. Rather than squabbling about what the story doesn’t do, I prefer to investigate the things that it does do.

As for managing controversial topics from a production company angle… well controversial topics can inspire much needed discussions and discourse. And if these tough topics get media attention, then that can be good for those issues.

Luckily for this story, many of the controversial topics don’t come up in the first book. So there is plenty of time to build an audience, and a situation where you cross those bridges when they come.


#8

I honestly get irritated and cringy upon seeing such one sided articles. Women in WoT passive and submissive?

Half the series is about Aes Sedai and their dominance over men and how they “gentle” them. Half the swears in the series are “Wool-headed men” (and the other half is “Blood and Bloody ashes”)

Then there is Graendal who “owns” her toys and there is Lanfear who just seduces everybody she wants with her “charm” (and a huge deal of compulsion)

Every forsaken had their ironic death if you can see the pattern. They almost all got what they “did” in the end. Wouldn’t I wish Rahvin to crawl more? Yes, totally but I don’t think that there is anyother male chanellers that didn’t get what they did in the end. But if you think about Arangar, she also got a very clean death and a quite comfortable life compared to her actions in the end.

Men in the series might not have had any horrible scenes equal to some women “physically” but then there is the fact that all three ta’veren were walking emotionally tortured bodies for at least a section of the series (Perrin for the whole series :D)

Sure the books have quite seperate specialties for male and female and seperates the genders to a sharp male/female division but calling it a “mysoginist” series is a really far-fetched idea imo.

Therefore I don’t see any need for a change in the story. Maybe Mesaana’s punishment by Shaidar Haran can be skipped but that is at a very late part of the story


#9

I’m not sure that Rand’s 3 love interests are going too be much of a problem, since polyamory seems to be one of the orientations that’s being championed nowadays, though not as much as the other ones. I think it would be a bigger problem to have Elayne, Min and Aviendha bicker and be antagonistic towards each other over a man as that would play into the stereotype that “all women are catty”. I was really impressed that Jordan avoided that by having the women be friendly towards each other, even having Elayne and Aviendha become first sisters in that Aiel ceremony.

I agree with what FeatheryWings said above. I’m a woman and I didn’t really have any problem with the portrayal of the women in WoT. The biggest problem I had concerned the abuse of a man in fact: the way Tylin treated Mat and the fact that it was presented as a laughing matter both in-world and on the narration level.

I’m all for constructive criticism of media when it comes to social issues, but in my opinion some of those critiques go way too far and see things that aren’t there. It’s also amusing to me how the same piece of media can be judged too progressive or too reactive by various groups (The Last Jedi would be one such example: I’ve seen some people decry it for pandering to social justice warriors and feminists and others slander it for sidelining characters of colour and bigging up a white male in Kylo Ren).


#10

I think that regarding the Forsaken we’re good. The female Forsaken were much more accomplished in certain aspects than the male. Aginor, Balthamel and Be’lal barely had time to breathe some third age fresh air. Ishamael got himself killed soon as well, but since he’s the Dark One’s favorite it’s okay because he won’t be punished. Rahvin and Asmodean followed soon after and then Sammael. All they did was spread some chaos in nations that were healed in due time with little bloodshed. The female Forsaken survived for much longer and even though they suffered a little, they actually did some bad things.

Graendal - Arad Doman was probably the nation in the Westlands that suffered the most because of her. She was directly involved in the demise of two of the Forsaken and indirectly involved in one.

Semirhage - Brought chaos to Seanchan using extreme measures, unlike Rahvin, Sammael or Be’lal. And she nearly broke Rand.

Mesaana - Helped prolong the division in the White Tower. If it hadn’t been for Egwene, she probably would have succeeded and the Aes Sedai would not be fit for the Last Battle.

Moghedien - Really no big deal, but she was the only one who managed to stay alive and unbroken through the whole series.

Lanfear - She didn’t do anything of use, really.

And yes, Mesaana was raped. But so was Mat and the Light knows how many gai’shain. That Sevanna must have had some fun. And so did Graendal.

The only male Forsaken to have done some really chaotic business were Demandred and, to a certain extent, M’Hael.


#11

I think the only thing that sinks this series if it gets made is a bad adaption and/or bad casting. I think the biggest cuts to the series will be the storylines that were inserted to even out character arcs. As far as the misogyny I think you just have to look at other movies and series that were successful without being 100% sanitized. Look at the latest movie of Fifty Shades of Gray that had a lady on a leash…Men are on leashes in WoT, and just imagine how that will look with 25 women leading over 100 men around on leashes.


#12

I think there are many things in this series that seem strange to those who do not know foreign cultures, but many of the ideas in the book were taken from existing cultures. Arab clans, Hindu religion, and more.
Perhaps these ideas should be presented as they exist today and not in an imaginary way, because that is what they are - strange concepts that even the characters in the book find difficult to accept as real.


#13

I took a World Religion class in college and it was like a trip behind the scenes of Wheel of Time. I have a much greater appreciation of RJ afterwards because it couldn’t have been too easy to meld all that information into a new, yet retold story.


#14

The aielman look just like they are taken from the Middle East a few decades ago. The desert fighters, living in clans, marry a few women, and a blood feud can wipe out a whole clan.


#15

The Aielman seem to be the Irish clans. You have to imagine how some cultures would change after the Breaking of the World. Rand being fair skinned and red hair, or it could be similar to Alexander the Great where some of his descendants are still born with red hair.


#16

Irish clans but I imagine them with a native American accent.


#17

Apart from their looks, their culture is of Arab tribes.


#18

I view sjws who are in the process of ruining everything with their insane complaining like men who have used a still tainted truesource. They have found a way to bend things to their will but don’t understand they are crazy. Or maybe they know and don’t care. So maybe they are more like dark friends.

What we may hear : There aren’t any gay people, there aren’t enough POCs, this is “making up” and furthering the falsehood that men and women are different and gender isn’t a social construct, why aren’t there any trans people, you are white washing other cultures, you are making feminists look evil etc… Etc… And so forth.

Hopefully someone in the production has the sand to just say, “All entertainment isn’t for everyone. This isn’t for you evidently. You dont have to watch it. Go find a series that covers these issues for you that has a large fan base and pitch it to a studio. Also, clean your room”


#19

I’m at a loss for words so I’m just going to say that I agree